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The concept of eco-chic is steadily spreading across the fashion and design worlds, as retailers are responding to consumers' rising demands for ethically and environmentally conscious products. But most companies tend to tout their eco-friendliness without providing adequate information as to exactly how their practices help the environment or promote production and trade in the developing world.

Not so with North South Project, an initiative that brings design collections produced in the developing worlds to Northern markets. Toronto-based designer Patty Johnson works with partners in the African nation of Botswana and Guyana in South America to design, manufacture, and market products like wooden furniture and woven baskets, lights and garden furniture. Their work highlights the techniques and materials that are unique to each culture and take into consideration the impact that the designs will have on the region's community and economy.

The project's booth at the recent ICFF show was the only one showcasing design from the developing world, a clear indication that more collaboration such as this is needed to give substance to eco-chic.

by Stephan Paschalides

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